Letter to the Editor: Spy work today
In the same week that a Chinese surveillance balloon was shot down, I received a solicitation for money to help a Constitutional amendment to override the Citizens United decision. Strangely, these very different events give us a chance to think about foreign intelligence operations against the US.
The balloon shows the weakness of Chinese satellite surveillance. Because space is still treated as demilitarized, satellites gather information over other countries without challenge. China sent the balloon to exploit US inattention to low tech threats, because China does not have the satellites we do. However, the lower altitude of balloons is considered “airspace,” so shooting it down (after probing it electronically, of course) was legitimate.
Meanwhile, our greatest vulnerability is revealed by the anti-Citizens United mailing. Citizens United is the court decision that dropped many limits on corporate money for politics. More perniciously, it allows corporate donations to be anonymous. If you wonder why American politics is now so partisan and irresponsible, a significant reason is that foreign intelligence now funnels large amounts of “dark money” into our debates, hoping to divide us.
So, I do not trust the campaign for an amendment. Legally, corporations are already “fictitious,” not “natural,” persons. What we need is a law that says corporations cannot hide their political contributions. A corporation represents actual people. Honest stockholders (and union members, since most unions are incorporated) deserve to know what is done with their money. We all have an interest in revealing the role of foreign actors.
Besides that, anonymous representation is not allowed in court. Lawyers must name their clients. Why should we sacrifice national defense to give corporations more anonymity in public debate than they have in public court?
Balloons get headlines. Amendments get donations. Dangerous espionage remains protected.